Written by Bob Rakow
Area towns listen to medical marijuana pitches
A medical marijuana clinic may never open its doors in Chicago Ridge or Oak Lawn, but officials in both communities are hashing out their thoughts on the possibility.
One week after Chicago Ridge officials heard a presentation from an attorney whose investment group wants to locate a marijuana dispensary in the village, Oak Lawn village board members on Tuesday discussed the issue at a committee meeting.
“We need to get some sense of direction on where we’re going with this,” Mayor Sandra Bury said. “Just about every district has one little pocket that would qualify.”
The dispensaries will be heavily regulated by the state. For example, they cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center or located in a residential area. State law allows communities to enact reasonable zoning ordinances further regulating the location of dispensaries.
Chicago Ridge approved regulations that would prohibit a dispensary from locating within 1,000 feet of a park or a recreational facility.
Oak Lawn Village Attorney Pat Connelly said the village would be able to rely on its zoning regulations to restrict the location of dispensaries.
“There are numerous zoning tools at your disposal,” Connelly said.
Oak Lawn officials did not make any decisions regarding zoning, deciding instead to let the planning and development commission take up the decision at its Aug. 18 meeting.
Last week, Chicago Ridge officials heard a presentation from Steve Weisman, who heads an investment group interested in two potential locations in the village.
The locations—one on Southwest Highway, the other on Harlem Avenue—both meet state and village zoning restrictions. Weisman’s group must choose a location before submitting an application with the state, he said.
Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar pointed out that communities cannot prevent a dispensary from setting up shop, and trustees expressed few reservations about one locating in Chicago Ridge.
But Trustee Bruce Quintos on Tuesday said the village should not consider a dispensary without first gauging residents’ opinions on the proposal. He’s also is miffed that he was not informed of Weisman’s proposal before the board meeting.
Weisman told Chicago Ridge trustees that his group would not seek locations in towns “where we’re not wanted.”
Other communities in the area made it clear they were not interested in adding a medical marijuana dispensary to their business community, Weisman said.
Quintos, a former undercover narcotics officer, said he has other concerns about a dispensary clinic in the village including patients selling some their marijuana.
Oak Lawn Police Chief Mike Murray also expressed security concerns; especially because the dispensaries only accept cash and patients could be robbed.
“The amount they are allowing for sale is considerable,” Murray said.
“I think there’s going to be a problem with the clientele other than the sick people,” Oak Lawn Trustee Terry Vorderer said.
Weisman addressed some of the security concerns at last week’s meeting in Chicago Ridge.
He stressed that the clinics would be heavily regulated by the state, including implementation of a security plan and dispensing medical marijuana only to approved clients.
“The state’s requirements are incredibility rigorous,” he told trustees. “This is truly medicine. This is a business.”
The state’s medical cannabis act took effect on January 1. The law allows the used of marijuana by individuals who have a medical need and a permit. Qualifying patients must be diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition. A qualifying patient can obtain up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.
Illinois is expected to begin taking applications for 60 medical marijuana businesses in September. Those who want to want to apply must have “an application pinned down,” said Weisman, an attorney for Kirkland and Ellis.
Weisman’s group plans to submit five applications. They decided to include Chicago Ridge as a potential location when they learned village officials were not opposed to the idea, he said.